While I live in suburban New Jersey and consider myself a stay-at-home mom, I’m still a busy New Yorker at heart. I’m constantly looking down at my phone and rushing around. I’m a part-time writer in addition to being a full-time “momma” to two kids under the age of two. Even though I’m rushing to play dates instead of work now, I’m still always rushing.
I’ve been home taking care of my kids for almost two years now since my daughter was born. I’ve tried to slow down, I promised myself several dozen times I would take this summer “off” and not write after my son was born in March. As evidenced by the piece you’re currently reading, that plan isn’t going well. Nevertheless, I’ve been trying to be more present, both for myself and my kids. I’m home with them because I believe I should be home with them. I shouldn’t spend all of my time on my phone or computer. That’s what I’ve been telling myself anyway.
This morning I found myself rushing to the library. We had no plans or timeline for once we got there, we just needed a change of scenery on a humid summer morning. I was wearing my son in a baby carrier and pushing my daughter in her stroller. Out of the corner of my eye, as I looked up from my phone, I noticed an elderly woman waving sweetly at my daughter. I did what I don’t do often enough. I stopped. She slowly came down her stairs to greet us and I admit I pushed down feelings of impatience as she took each step as carefully as she could. I’m trying to train myself to not be so darn impatient. I’m a work in progress.
She came down and chatted with us about the husband she thinks she has but hasn’t seen in a while, the daughter she thinks lives with her, her mother who is either living in Rahway, New Jersey or dead; she can’t remember. At the end of the conversation she advised not living till the age of 96 like she has. It was no small feat to make small-talk with a senile 96-year old woman, but I’d like to think I rose to the occasion.
My daughter sat on the sidewalk and took out a toy from under her stroller and played while we chatted. On our way home two hours later she waved to us again and was surprised to learn that I knew her name. She called for her 70-year-old daughter to come out to say hello to her new friends. Several times she referred to my daughter as her granddaughter. Both of these women talked with my daughter, who in turn shared her blueberries with them. My daughter does not do this lightly. Blueberries are serious stuff.
I work hard to instill in my daughter a sense of respect. When we walk through Penn Station waiting for a train, we go to every police officer and soldier standing around protecting us and I’ve taught her to say and sign thank you to them. When we stopped today, I did so in order to teach her about respecting the elderly. After raising kids and sometimes grandkids, there are too many folks left to dawdle away in their retirement, lonely and bored. They built this country and deserve our thanks and our time.
A toddler and elderly women know more than me about many things, but the most important lesson I learned from them today was about living in the moment. I’ve found that staying home with my daughter has been extraordinary for her personal and emotional development, but today, she helped me grow a little bit too. I hope that I’m teaching her as much as she’s teaching me.